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When can you seek to modify a child custody order?

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2022 | Child Custody |

You might think that the worst is behind you once you resolve your child custody dispute. Whether you negotiated a resolution or litigated an outcome, the court’s order is binding, which may give you some relief. After all, the parties should know the expectations and obligations applicable to them, right? Not necessarily.

It’s common for child custody disputes to arise well after an initial custody order is issued. While you can try to work out any disagreements informally, you might have to turn to the court for help if you’re unable to resolve the issue. This may take the form of a filing for contempt, but you and your child might be better off simply asking for a custody modification.

When is a custody modification warranted?

Remember that the court is entrusted with ordering a child custody arrangement that supports the child’s best interests. This means that there can be a slew of justifications for seeking a modification. Those reasons may include any of the following:

  • Changed financial circumstances: If the other parent has lost a job or is otherwise facing financial challenges that impact his or her ability to care for the child, then you may be warranted in seeking a modification that changes primarily physical custody to you and away from the other parent.
  • Substance abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse is more common than many people realize. And the impact that exposure to parental substance abuse can have on children is profound. That’s why if you suspect that your child’s other parent is abusing substances, then you might want to gather evidence of that fact and be prepared to present it to the court in a modification hearing.
  • Physical abuse or neglect: If you think that your child is being physically, verbally, or emotionally abused, or that he or she is being neglected in some fashion, then you definitely have grounds to seek modification. Don’t downplay what you think may be abuse or neglect, and don’t let your child dismiss any indications that inappropriate care is being provided.
  • Mental health concerns: Your initial custody order was likely based, at least in part, on the mental health of each parent. Therefore, if your child’s other parent is diagnosed with a mental health condition or is inadequately treating his or her mental health, then you’ll want to assess whether that parent’s condition impacts his or her ability to safely care for the child. If it does, then modification might be best to protect your child’s well-being.
  • Poor co-parenting: The hope is that your existing custody arrangement will lead to effective co-parenting that best supports your child. But if your child’s other parent has failed to adhere to the terms of the custody order or is otherwise detracting from effective co-parenting, then you might want to consider seeking modification. This can include attempts by the other parent to block your access to the child or otherwise negatively impact your relationship with the child.

Preparing your custody modification argument

In order to succeed on a motion to modify custody, you’ll need evidence to support your arguments, keeping in mind that your legal arguments need to speak to the child’s best interests. Therefore, you might want to consider gaining access to police reports, therapy reports, and other witness accounts. Saving text and email communications and writing down your child’s statements can all be helpful to your case.

So, if you want to maximize your chances of obtaining a modification that is best for your child, then you might want to think about having a skilled advocate on your side. Experienced family law attorneys like those at our firm are ready to help as needed.


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